Penelope Wilton

Doctor Who (2005) s02e00 – The Christmas Invasion

There are quite a few things to say about The Christmas Invasion. For example, as improbable as it seems, there’s a chance David Tennant is going to redeem Camille Coduri, who went from a perfectly fine guest player at the beginning of last season to a complete time suck by the end of it. It’s unclear whether Tennant will be able to work that magic with Noel Clarke, who’s still really annoying no matter what number Doctor we’re on.

The episode opens with Coduri and Clarke hearing the TARDIS coming into Christmastime London so they rush to the street to greet it. The doors open, an unfamiliar Tennant stumbles out, warmly embraces them, collapses. Then Billie Piper comes out and says, “That’s the Doctor.”

To which Coduri replies, “Doctor who?”

Wokka wokka.

Though Christmas Invasion does work as a fairly easy introduction to “Doctor Who.” Do they always ingloriously shuck the previous Doctor or is it Tennant being immediately amazing. Well, somewhat immediately. He’s in a coma because of transforming from Christopher Eccleston at the end of last season. This Christmas special doesn’t just introduce Tennant but makes a bunch of promises for the Doctor’s upcoming adventures.

Tennant’s in his coma for maybe the first half of the episode but it does feel a little longer because we’re got to get through the initial stages of Coduri and Clarke whining about Piper being a time and relative dimension in space traveller. Also for aliens to invade. There’s a big action sequence, which director James Hawes sadly doesn’t pull off, despite there being obvious money behind it. Then we get to catch up with Penelope Wilton, who’s gone on to become prime minister since we last saw her.

Wilton’s great. She could carry a show about her being a small town politician turned prime minister.

Events occur to get Piper and company teamed up with Wilton (on the alien ship, which is actually rather interesting—it appears the alien race launched themselves into space with their ship built under their planet’s crust or something). The aliens are this weird mix of Star Wars and Star Trek, dynamic enough to engage the casual viewer.

They only have to maintain interest so long, because once Tennant wakes up, no one’s paying attention to anything else. He’s amazing from go. Spellbinding. You can’t wait to see the next adventure because it’s him. So it’s a great promotion for the brand.

It’s also got an exceptionally problematic twist where Tennant takes advantage of sexist and ageism to “do the right thing,” except he’s not just being vindictive because it’s a bureaucracy. It’s also cruelly done.

Will Tennant’s fun-loving, convivial Doctor go on to be cruel?

Guess we’ll have to wait for a Dalek to find out. But Tennant puts “Who” into a “must see” category it didn’t even glimpse last season.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e05 – World War Three

Digital video in the mid-aughts was still very rough. Around the time World War Three came out, some of the best DV cinematography wasn’t being done in film or television but in art and technical schools, as creatives were figuring out how to best light for the medium.

In other words, I understand why cinematographer Ernest Vincze shoots such an ugly hour of television. I don’t understand Keith Boak’s direction. Like, seriously, an out of focus foreground or background character in crappy DV… But I do get Vincze’s limitations.

The episode is full of them. The aliens go from disquieting giant suits to terrible CGI. You can even see the models reused in different effects shots. Vincze doesn’t even have the budget—or, let’s just say it, ability—to light the composites well. World War Three takes a big swing and a big miss as far as the visuals.

The story’s not much better. Christopher Eccleston resolves the previous episode’s cliffhanger quite perfunctorily and then there’s a lot of chasing—there are aliens chasing Eccleston, aliens chasing Bille Piper and Penelope Wilton (who almost makes the episode worth it), and aliens chasing Piper’s mum, Camille Coduri. Sadly, Coduri teams up with Noel Clarke and they work remotely to help Eccleston save the world.

Coduri’s not great. Her character’s bad but she’s also not great. Clarke’s real bad. So having Coduri around him the whole episode doesn’t help. Though the terrible subplot about Coduri wanting Eccleston to assure her Piper is safe as his companion is all on Coduri. And writer Russell T. Davies. It’s not quite a “Martha” moment but it’s in the same vending machine. Davies’s resolution to the dilemma is an eye roller.

The episode hinges on various deuses ex machina to get to its conclusion, which is sort of an extension of the first episode. It’s kind of a real stinker, thanks primarily to Boak and Clarke; Corduri is collateral damage.

The ending, which resets the stakes to where they were before the two-parter with a little change—oh, also—we find out Piper’s phone accepts incoming calls, which means the entirely twelve months she was missing, neither Corduri or Clarke tried calling her. Like… what.

Anyway. The ending threatens to make things worse, then returns them to the status quo.

I really hope Boak takes next episode off. I can’t handle any more Boak right now.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e04 – Aliens of London

Director Keith Boak is back and it’s obvious from go some of the problem with Boak-directed episodes is Boak’s a bad director. Some of the problems are budgetary, but Boak and cinematographer Ernest Vincze even make the non-effects stuff look like bad digital video. There’s an anti-suspense suspense sequence involving sympathetic coroner Naoko Mori, who finds herself trapped in the morgue with an alien. Vincze throws all these goofy lights at her to cover for Boak’s complete inability to direct the sequence.

The episode starts with Christoper Eccleston bringing Billie Piper back to “the present” (meaning Piper’s present) so she can check in with mum Camille Coduri. We immediately discover last episode wasn’t a fluke and Eccleston really can’t control when the TARDIS jumps in time. Later in the episode he does a fairly precise teleportation, so the problem seems to be fourth dimensional, not first through third. It’s kind of obnoxious watching them goof off with the absurdly silly navigation system on the TARDIS—has it been updated since 1963. Is it a series trope? Like the Enterprise crew “spinning” 360 degrees?

Eccleston gets Piper home a year late, after Coduri has given up hope for her safe return and after Piper’s boyfriend, the just-as-charmless-as-last-time Noel Clarke, has been a suspect in her disappearance. Cue drama. Cue more drama once Coduri finds out about Eccleston.

But Piper and Coduri having a showdown isn’t the episode, the episode is an alien spacecraft crash-landing into the Thames. The government response involves a missing Prime Minister, an inquisitive Penelope Wilton (who makes the episode given how bad everything else works), and a flatulent replacement PM, David Verrey. In fact, most of the melodrama hinges on… fart jokes. Lots and lots of fart jokes.

Really bad CG aliens eventually show up and everyone’s in danger. Cue cliffhanger.

It’s occasionally well-acted and Wilton’s a delight, but the bad direction and photography, Clarke being an energy vampire, and so on….

It’s needlessly tiring.

Blame It on the Bellboy (1992, Mark Herman)

Herman opens Blame It on the Bellboy with his two weakest features—and the film’s full of weaknesses so to start with the worst ones? It’s sort of impressive he set it up to immediately stumble.

First, Andreas Katsulas’s mobster. The film takes place in Venice and Katsulas plays the only Venetian. He plays the role with an absurd New York accent. It’s an incompetent performance.

Second, Bronson Pinchot’s titular bellboy, who sets the film’s wacky events into motion by not understanding English. The surprising thing about Bellboy is the absence of a plagiarism suit as Herman rips off scenes and dialogue from “Fawlty Towers,” apparently telling Pinchot just to ape Andrew Sachs’s Manuel on that program. Unfortunately, even in someone else’s role, Pinchot can’t give a good performance.

Then the principals show up. Bryan Brown, Dudley Moore and Richard Griffiths. Griffiths is the best as minor British politician looking for sleazy romance in Venice. Brown’s an assassin, Moore’s a nebbish on assignment from a bad job. Moore actually manages to be likable; Brown barely makes an impression. In about half his scenes, he doesn’t even speak, just nods.

The female cast is Patsy Kensit, Penelope Wilton and Alison Steadman. The script’s response to the character enduring a sexual trauma is to make her comically unsympathetic. Steadman is initially treated well (and her performance is good) before Herman too makes her a target for audience laughter.

Only Steadman keeps afloat, giving the film’s best performance.

Herman makes a bad Bellboy.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Mark Herman; director of photography, Andrew Dunn; edited by Michael Ellis; music by Trevor Jones; production designer, Gemma Jackson; produced by Steve Abbott and Jennifer Howarth; released by Hollywood Pictures.

Starring Dudley Moore (Melvyn Orton), Bryan Brown (Mike Lawton), Richard Griffiths (Maurice Horton), Andreas Katsulas (Scarpa), Patsy Kensit (Caroline Wright), Alison Steadman (Rosemary Horton), Penelope Wilton (Patricia Fulford) and Bronson Pinchot (Bellboy).


Clockwise (1986, Christopher Morahan)

At some point during Clockwise, I realized it plays like a TV movie. The direction is fine–Morahan doesn’t have any sweeping vistas, but it’s not because he’s framing it like a TV movie. The script is very funny (though I guess the language is pretty clean–not sure if it’s TV clean). No, it’s John Cleese. It feels like a TV movie because of John Cleese. He’s not giving a performance, he’s doing a milder Basil Fawlty. He’s hilarious doing it, but as a narrative, he’s not playing a character. He’s “doing his thing.”

I suppose TV movie is a little harsh, thinking about it afterwards, I realized it’s a more like a Buster Keaton film, where the point of the film is Keaton and what the viewer expects from him. Same thing here. It’s clear Cleese is playing Basil from his first scene.

There’s also the ending–the film doesn’t really have one–it just stops. It has a continuous present action, taking place over approximately eight hours and when it stops… it’s a bit of a jolt. There’s still a lot more they could have done. There’s zero resolution, which is fine–the last scene sets one up for disappointment.

The supporting cast is excellent–Alison Steadman plays Cleese’s wife (getting that immediate sympathy), Sharon Maiden is good as his sidekick, Penelope Wilton is good as his ex-girlfriend who gets trapped in his antics. Only Stephen Moore falls flat.

It’s very entertaining, but distant and unsatisfying.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Christopher Morahan; written by Michael Frayn; director of photography, John Coquillon; edited by Peter Boyle; music by George Fenton; production designer, Roger Murray-Leach; produced by Michael Codron; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring John Cleese (Brian Stimpson), Alison Steadman (Gwenda Stimpson), Stephen Moore (Mr. Jolly), Sharon Maiden (Laura), Penelope Wilton (Pat Garden) and Joan Hickson (Mrs. Trellis).


Match Point (2005, Woody Allen)

Woody gave an interview in “Entertainment Weekly” of all places and talked about how he’s gone through so many critical ups and downs, he’s not phased by Match Point‘s good press. It’s certainly his most commercial film in recent memory… probably since Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex … But Were Afraid to Ask. Really–it’s incredibly commercial. Thrillers are always commercial, even when they’re impeccably cast, written, directed, and scored. Match Point is really good, sure, but it’s not some amazing “return” for Allen.

I realized that–that Match Point and its praise, from people considered with box office potential–really early into the film, actually. Something about the pacing of the first act, maybe that it was set in London. It’s beautiful to see Allen do films in London, since he got to use some great actors–Ewen Bremner and Colin Salmon showed up for Alien vs. Predator reunion, for example. For all the great press Scarlett Johansson is getting, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is better. But I read once, I think in a review of Curse of the Jade Scorpion, that Woody makes the most profound observations about the human condition when it wouldn’t seem like he was trying… when he was most comfortable. Obviously, there are some flaws in this theory (yes, Broadway Danny Rose is profound, but so are September and Interiors), but Match Point isn’t a comfortable Woody Allen. The narrator isn’t Woody or even a facet of him.

As good as Match Point turns out–it owes a lot to Ealing comedies, I won’t spoil anymore–it’s not a better made film than Melinda and Melinda, which had story problems, but was the best filmmaking Allen’s done since… well, not that long. Sweet and Lowdown was a beautifully made film.

Match Point‘s only a revelation to people who think Woody’s gone somewhere. He hasn’t… so it’s just another good Woody Allen movie.

There are twenty-five other good ones too.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Woody Allen; director of photography, Remi Adefarasin; edited by Alisa Lepselter; production designer, Jim Clay; produced by Letty Aronson, Gareth Wiley and Lucy Darwin; released by DreamWorks Pictures.

Starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Chris Wilton), Scarlett Johansson (Nola Rice), Emily Mortimer (Chloe Wilton), Matthew Goode (Tom Hewett), Brian Cox (Alec Hewett), Rupert Penry-Jones (Henry), Colin Salmon (Ian), Ewen Bremner (Inspector Dowd) and Penelope Wilton (Eleanor Hewett).


Scroll to Top